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Senate GOP Opposition to AG Builds

In late April, Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) told reporters Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had a "huge credibility issue" regarding the mass firings of U.S. attorneys last year.

But, telegraphing his own spin, Coleman then said he was "walking up to the line" without actually crossing it and calling for Gonzales to resign, something that only President Bush should do.

Well, no more.

Yesterday, Coleman said that the news broken by The Post's Dan Eggen and Amy Goldstein that the Justice Department considered dismissing many more U.S. attorneys than officials had previously acknowledged -- between 25 to 30 prosecutors -- was a bridge too far. "Attorney General Gonzales is unable to provide the type of leadership needed to effectively run the department," Coleman said.

Coleman became the sixth Senate Republican to call for Gonzales's resignation. Unlike House Republicans, who spent last week defending Gonzales, Senate Republicans piled on the attorney general this week, creating fresh doubts about his long-term hold on the job.

Here's a Capitol Briefing breakdown of Senate Republicans who have been most outspoken on Gonzales. Special thanks to the guys at Talking Points Memo for maintaining a similar whip count on Republican opposition to Gonzales.

THE RESIGN NOW CROWD

John Sununu (R-N.H.): First GOP senator to call for resignation, on March 14. While Sununu is up for re-election in 2008, his call for Gonzales's departure isn't just a political move as he's long been a critic of the attorney general's, particularly on issues related to torture and domestic spying.

Gordon Smith (R-Ore.): Followed Sununu by one day, making his resignation call on March 15. "The senator believes, as a matter of credibility, it would be most helpful to have an attorney general we can have full confidence in," Smith's spokeswoman told Capitol Briefing then.

Tom Coburn (R-Okla.): Most dramatic resignation call to date, the only lawmaker to say Gonzales should be fired to his face: Here's how Coburn concluded his five-minute questioning of Gonzales at the Senate Judiciary Committee's April 19 hearing: "I believe you ought to suffer the consequences that these others [the fired prosecutors] have suffered. I believe the best way for us to put this behind us is your resignation."

John McCain (R-Ariz.): Made resignation call on the day he officially announced his bid for the GOP nomination for president, April 25. As he told CNN's Larry King, "I think that out of loyalty to the president that that would probably be the best thing that he could do."

Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska): Reacted after the dramatic testimony Tuesday by former Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey. In a statement issued Wednesday, Hagel said: "The American people deserve an Attorney General ... whose honesty and capability are beyond question. Attorney General Gonzales can no longer meet this standard. He has failed this country. He has lost the moral authority to lead."

Coleman (Minn.): From yesterday's statement: "The cloud of suspicion continues to hover over the Attorney General's office surrounding the dismissal of U.S. Attorneys. This political debate distracts from the important work that must be done at the Justice Department."

THE 'WALKING UP TO THE LINE' CROWD:

Arlen Specter (Pa.): The top Republican on Judiciary refuses to ask for Gonzales to resign, but has made his private intentions very clear. Just this week Specter has said it's "embarrassing" for "professionals" to work for Gonzales and called the Justice Department "dysfunctional" under Gonzales.

Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.): A U.S. attorney for Alabama for almost a dozen years, Sessions has been outraged at what he considers a lack of experienced prosecutors around Gonzales, who lacks his own prosecutorial background. Yesterday, he told Capitol Briefing he doesn't think Gonzales can "re-energize" the department: "I saw real difficulties there, and I still do."

Olympia Snowe (R-Maine): Most concerned about the Comey testimony, as she told Capitol Briefing yesterday: "It's deeply troubling, it undermines his position as attorney general ... The president should obviously seriously consider whether or not he should continue."

Susan Collins (R-Maine): Reacting to news that the U.S. attorney from Maine was on several of the firing lists, Collins told local media: "I think the attorney general's credibility has been incredibly damaged."

Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.): washingtonpost.com's Ed O'Keefe caught up with Graham the GOP presidential debate in South Carolina this week, where the senator said Gonzales - four months after the controversy broke - still has "credibility problems."

Pat Roberts (R-Kan.): The top Republican on the Intelligence Committee is now in the mix of the U.S. attorney scandal because of Comey's testimony about the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program: "When you have to spend more time up here on Capitol Hill instead of running the Justice Department, maybe you ought to think about it [resigning]."

By Paul Kane  |  May 18, 2007; 4:41 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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Comments

In the end, it doesn't matter what Congress thinks. W is so detached from reality that he will keep Gonzales as long as he damn well pleases.
What astounds me is the silence of the current US Attorneys. Not one of them has the spine or integrity to stand up and say 'this is wrong, and I won't be a part of it'. It is easy for me to say they should resign in protest, I know, but anything short of that, and they no longer have any credibility and most certainly no longer deserve our respect. Alberto's crew of imbeciles has vetted them and declared them loyal bushies, if thats not enough to make them stand and fight for their integrity, they never had any in the first place.

Posted by: Patrick Huss | May 18, 2007 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Gonzales is but the tip of the iceberg in the attorney firings. He must resign or be fired, that is a given, however; the investigation needs to proceed until the full story is discovered. Further, Bush's refusal to answer Kelly o'Donnel's question of May 16th, asking if he (Bush) ordered Gonzales to try and persuade the ailing Ashcroft to sign off on an unpresidented surveillance act, leads one to believe there is much, much more to be discoverd.

Posted by: Alex Starke | May 18, 2007 7:55 PM | Report abuse

As usual, the press chooses to concentrate on the window dressing rather then the drafty window.

Posted by: Trevor | May 18, 2007 8:45 PM | Report abuse

Gonzalez has been with Bush since before he was governor of Texas. His controversial actions regarding torture and these political firings have all been for the political and ideological benefit of Bush and of the national Republican Party, not for personal gain nor the result of simple incompetence. I can see why Republicans would want to use the footsoldier who carried out the orders as a scapegoat, but the primary blame goes to Bush himself- and a portion of the blame goes to the Republican Party that stood behind him on the issue of torture and secret detentions and which initially defended him on the politically motivated prosecutor firings too.

Posted by: Bill Kossler | May 18, 2007 8:55 PM | Report abuse

Bottom line is the President has the right to hire and fire US Attorneys, period. Clinton replaced 93 of them, including the one from Arkansas. Why didn't these whimp's complain about that. Bush should have done the same. He is slowly finding out that nice guys finish last!!

Posted by: Johnsr | May 18, 2007 8:55 PM | Report abuse

I love the idea the democrats are floating on the sewage pond while swimming in sewage. If Gonzales is fired because he fired a few worthless employees that will set a new 'law' into stone that no future president can fire anyone hired/appointed by the previous administration. I'll bet Rove is rubbing his hands in glee. His job in the white house is secure even if a democrat is elected.
You have to be careful what you wish for, you might get it and it may come back and bite you on the A**. This is one of those times.

Posted by: Scrapiron | May 18, 2007 9:03 PM | Report abuse

By the way, we won't forget this in 09.

Posted by: Scrapiron | May 18, 2007 9:05 PM | Report abuse

The POTUS has the right to hire & fire these attorneys, but he put an idiot in charge of Justice purely out of loyalty. These repeated appointments of his friends continue to prove how ineffective this White House is. None of them can articulate an idea, none of them can inspire confidence. I voted for Bush twice, and I cannot wait until he's gone. Why worry about voting for Hillary? He's Hillary in drag.

Posted by: border patroller | May 18, 2007 9:26 PM | Report abuse

It's interesting that the only way a person can defend the White House's actions in this instance is through a complete obliviousness to precedent. I guess people figure that just because the Constitution has worked so well, that it magically takes care of itself.

There's a pretty good chance, that when this inquiry is all said and done, the Attorney General, the nation's top law enforcement officer will be found to have violated his oath and the laws that he has sworn to uphold. Based just on the publicly available evidence it's clear that he has repeatedly lied during testimony, and that he is at best severely ethically challenged.

And then there's the fact that this administration has put in place some exceedingly dangerous precedents for future presidents to use and abuse. (e.g. in terms of altering the local nature of the U.S. Attorneys offices--a tradition which previously had stood since 1789; by allowing low-level White House staff to discuss ongoing criminal and civil litigation inside the DOJ; by allowing a political director with no legal background to evaluate the merits of U.S. Attorneys and select candidates for removal; to fail to comply with Senate subpoenas; to fail to secure documents at the outset of a congressional inquiry; to use the U.S. Attorneys office to bring trumped up charges before elections). And I'm just talking about what this administration has done since Dec. 2005--and even this list is incomplete.

A censure vote is the right step at this stage. Whether the White House and a lame duck president get the message, is a secondary question for me. I want to know where my representatives stand before the DOJ implodes under Gonzales's corrupt mismanagement--an outcome at this stage which seems quite likely.

Posted by: JP2 | May 19, 2007 1:39 AM | Report abuse

No one wants to take the bull by the horns. Its time for W to go along with his administration.

Should we wait til 2009. There will be harsh words from now until the end of W's term in office.

W and the Attorney General with so little support cannot bring forth any meaningful legislation.

Are we going to wait til 2009 for a change in command?

Posted by: Anne | May 19, 2007 6:10 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: JMEnglish@gmail.com | May 19, 2007 8:39 AM | Report abuse

Lindsey Grahm, Shut that creaky closet door. Lindsey! Shut that closet door. Isn't Lindsey a girl's name?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 19, 2007 8:46 AM | Report abuse

WE need some Republicans with balls men and women instead of the so called ones we have.

Posted by: Dee | May 19, 2007 1:34 PM | Report abuse

No question - integrity is not one of this administration's fortes. Gonzalez should resign and take the Bush with him.

Posted by: wanda | May 19, 2007 2:22 PM | Report abuse

No question - integrity is not one of this administration's fortes. Gonzalez should resign and take the Bush with him.

Posted by: wanda | May 19, 2007 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Gonzales makes me want to puke. What a Mexican-American minstrel show!

Posted by: nads | May 21, 2007 9:04 AM | Report abuse

The ignorance of the people commenting amaze me. The desire of the media to perpetuate this nonsense does not surprise me.

The bottom line is that the U.S. Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President. He may fire them with or without cause.

Recall that our greatest modern President, William Jefferson Clinton, relieved ALL of the U.S. Attorneys of their duties when he took office in 1992. He additionally replaced the White House Travel Office and placed political cronies and hacks in various posts and offices.

The precedent has been set.

Now, end this vacuous "debate."

Posted by: Tony | May 21, 2007 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Dear Tony et al:

You need to read the whole story, Tony, and anyone else who thinks this is partisan politics smear against POTUS. US Attorneys are appointed by the President, and when a President is elected he replaces them all, with consultation with the Senators of the state.

The Patriot Act conveniently removed the requirement for consultation with the Senate. Then this President became the only President to fire his own appointed attorneys. The claim from Gonzales was the firings were based on performance. Documents are showing that the performance standards were did you prosecute election fraud cases against the Democrats in time for the Nov elections - yes you kept your job - no you were fired. The standard was not fight terrorism, not prosecute illegal immigration smugglers, not finding corrupt GOP politicians but did you prosecute politically sensitive cases in a way that would help the GOP.

We also learn that staff level attorneys were hired/promoted based on their political loyalty to the GOP - a blantantly illegal move by the DOJ. Where was Gonsalves in all of this - well apparently he can't remember. Who suggested these firings, Gonsalves doesn't know but many see Karl Rove using a non-archived email address.

Hmmm, Tony et al, look for this to stay in the news for a long time.

Ciao,

David G. Stahl
--
davidgreystahl@gmail.com

Posted by: David G. Stahl | May 21, 2007 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Tony, your display of ignorance amazes ME. Do you write the Republican talking points, or do you just regurgitate them automatically, like you're a remote controlled robot? Yes, yes! Bring on the Ministry of Propaganda Show!

Posted by: nads | May 21, 2007 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Alfredogate: Gonzales didn't lie when he "couldn't remember". He was told to look the other way while Rove orchestrated the "interim appointments" provision and it's secret insertion in the Patriot Act by Sen Jeff Sessions, R-AL. The change in the law requiring Senate confirmation was to get Rove's chief of staff, Griffin, in as USA for the Eastern District of Arkansas. There was no way in hell Griffin, legal lightweight, Repub. hit-man, Rove's pal, could get Senate confirmation.

Posted by: andy marrin | May 21, 2007 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Johnsr: It never ceases to amaze me, how, after all this time, people like you still don't get it. How hard is it to understand, for pete's sake? I mean, aren't you in the least afraid of embarrassing yourself at how ignorant you sound?

It's been printed in every political article possible, it's been stated over and over in the Congressional hearings, on TV, etc. BUSH DID FIRE THEM ALL IN THE BEGINNING OF HIS PRESIDENCY.

These 8 attorneys WERE HIS OWN PEOPLE. HE CHOSE TO FIRE THEM FOR POLITICAL REASONS, BEING THAT THEY WERE EITHER INVESTIGATING REPUBLICAN CRIMES OR THEY WERE NOT PURSUING LAWSUITS AGAINST DEMOCRATS WHERE THEY FELT THERE WAS NO CASE VIABLE ENOUGH TO GO TO TRIAL.

THE BOTTOM LINE IS: The White House cannot force attorneys to sue people illegally where no crimes were committed. Likewise, the White House cannot STOP investigations of corruption or crime taking place against Republicans, by FIRING THE ATTORNEYS.

The Attorney General acted improperly and possibly criminally by POLITICIZING the HIRING AND FIRING OF ATTORNEYS.

The AG is supposed to be working for the Department of Justice and the American people, NOT AS A HENCHMAN TO THE WHITEHOUSE FOR POLITICAL PURPOSES.

And NEITHER BUSH OR GONZALES ARE SWEET LITTLE ALTAR BOYS TO BE PITIED. They are both grown up men who know what they're doing and HAVE REPEATEDLY LIED AND VICTIMIZED THE AMERICAN PEOPLE AND TAINTED THE POSITIONS THEY HOLD.

THEY HAVE MADE A MOCKERY OF THEIR ESTEEMED POSITIONS AND EMBARRASSED THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,OVER AND OVER AGAIN.

They (including Dick Cheney) should be tried for their crimes and removed from office. America should not be brought to her knees (as she has) by these selfish and corrupt individuals.

Posted by: Cheryl | May 21, 2007 3:46 PM | Report abuse

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